The people you know can be the best way for you to find your next job. The “tried and true” path of networking is still the most successful way to find your next position.

According to Jobvite’s 2021 Job Seeker Nation survey, most workers find out about job openings from friends (45%) and professional connections (31%).

Research consistently identifies networking as an important job search tool — anywhere from 40-80% of job placements are attributed to networking. Networking can also be a way to identify unadvertised job opportunities — accessing the “hidden job market.” (The “hidden job market” refers to jobs that are not advertised publicly. These positions may be filled through employee referrals, recruiters, or direct contact with hiring managers through networking.) With the right experience and credentials to meet a company’s need, you may even have a job created just for you.

It happens all the time. Someone in your network says, “You know what? You should talk to John Jones at the XYZ Company. They’re looking for someone like you.”

Build Your Network Before You Need It

The single biggest mistake most job searchers make is not asking for help from their network. People want to help you — so let them! But do not wait until you are out of work to start developing relationships with your network.

Who Is Your Network?

The first step is to identify who is in your network. This can include How to Use Your Network.  There are a few ways to use your network to find a new opportunity. The first is to contact specific people in your network — or your entire network — and let them know you are looking for ideas, information, advice, and contacts/referrals. Even if you are contacting someone with the power to hire you, do not ask for a job. Ask for advice or assistance, not a job. Create a networking cover letter (samples are included in this guide) and send the letter with your resume to each of the contacts in your network. This is the broadest way to use your network and can be useful if you are currently unemployed and not worried about jeopardizing your current job by visibly pursuing a new one.

A more effective way to use your network is a more targeted approach. Identify the specific need you have, and then contact people who are able to help you reach that specific job goal. The more specific you are about what you need or what you are looking for, the more likely you are to get what you want, friends, relatives, parents of children’s friends, parents and relatives of your friends, club members, cousins, neighbors, current and previous co-workers and managers, suppliers, professional association contacts, your community contacts (civic leaders, clergy, etc.), and your doctor, financial advisor, or attorney. Your holiday card list, if you have one, can be a good starting point for identifying who is already in your network.

You can also brainstorm contacts you need to make. Write your desired job target at the top of a piece of paper. Then, make a list of possible employers on the left side of the page. On the right side of the page, make a list of people you know who can connect you with these companies.